The Lok Rahs Theatre Competition 2012 concluded late on Monday night at the National College of Arts (Auditorium).
Neem di chahwein, a play by the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) students grabbed the top three awards – best play and best actors, male (Muhammad Waqas) and female (Tayyaba Khalid). Khwaja Junaid of the Sangat Theatre group shared the best male actor award, with Waqas, for Neewan Mundari Da.
The three-day competition featured 14 plays from 12 universities across the Punjab. All the plays staged, except for one in Seraiki, were in Punjabi.
The award for production design went to Hoan Unhoan (Being and Nothingness) by the Punjab University and the best director award to Ghaffar Mohiuddin of the University of Gujrat.
The judges included playwrights Asghar Nadeem Syed and Shahid Mehmood Nadeem, Naveed Shehzad, the former head of Liberal Arts at Beaconehouse National University; Huma Safdar of the Sangat theatre group; and Saman Saif, who has been affiliated with Radio Pakistan for 18 years and teaches theatre at Lahore Grammar School.
Qaiser Abbas, a member of the Lok Rahs team, said the organisation had confined the competition to plays in languages of the Punjab to encourage performers “to get to know their culture.” He said other objectives were to “revive collectivism amongst the youth and promote freedom of expression”.
Huma Safdar advised some of the performers to “stick to the scripts they submitted” and “not succumb to the temptation of vulgarity to earn praise.” “I understand that this is cathartic during periods of imposed silence but do not resort to such tactics in our festivals… it is being dishonest to scripts and to your acting,” she said.
Earlier, the day featured three performances; one penned by Muhammad Safdar Mir and the other two were adapted from Lakht Pasha.
The first performance was of the play Hoan Unhoan. Sonia Qadir played Batool Salahuddin, a middle-class girl tormented by her identity crisis. Batool’s dream is to dance but instead wears a veil to meet society’s expectations.
Batool continues to ask herself what constitutes her identity. She realises that her family, religion and the society do not accept her the way she is but want her to be a certain way. Eventually, she goes mad.
Earlier in the play, a woman is shot for letting a girl continue her education. The girl’s fate is left to the imagination of the audience.
The play also featured a mime. As children the girls play together while the society, represented by men in masks, remains unmoved. When the girls reach adolescence, the masked men try to force them into a cloth. Towards the end, the women take off the cloaks and start fighting back. After ‘defeating’ the men, the women come together as Kaali Maata, the Hindu goddess.
PU Vice Chancellor Mujahid Kamran, who spoke after the play ended, suggested that the organisers take the competition to the streets. “If traffic can be stopped for petty protests, there is no reason why it cannot be stopped for meaningful theatre,” Kamran remarked.
Neem di Chahwein (In the Neem tree shade) by UVAS was about urban migration and how greed changes people.
UVAS VC Talat Naseer Pasha said he was happy that students of a science university had been provided the opportunity to explore their talents.
Chhota, a play performed by students from the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad. It told the story of a man who starts as a waiter at a food stall, achieves stardom but then ends up poor again. It also explored the lives of a Pakthun shoe-shine boy, a garbage picker and a vendor who sells roasted daal.
Muhammad Behzad, who played ‘chhota,’ said the play was about how the weak are exploited by the powerful.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2012.